In an attempt to fix its reputation, Uber approached many prominent women to take up the position of CEO in the struggling firm.
Among those approached was Meg Whitman. The CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise is still being pushed by Uber’s biggest investor, Benchmark Capital, as a candidate for the company’s open CEO position, according to two sources close to the matter. The Hewlett Packard executive’s relationship with Benchmark goes back to the 1990s, when Benchmark was an early investor in eBay, which hired Whitman as CEO in March 1998. Benchmark held a 22 percent stake in the company when it went public later that year.
Whitman, however, publicly denied she wanted the job on July 27 when she tweeted, “Uber’s CEO will not be Meg Whitman.”
Benchmark is embroiled in a board battle with Kalanick, filing a lawsuit to eliminate three board seats that were added when he was CEO. But two sources familiar with the CEO search process told CNBC that Benchmark is still telling people that she is a potential candidate, and that she has had conversations with Benchmark since her public statement. These people say that she is Benchmark’s preferred choice.
One source told CNBC that both Whitman and former GE CEO Jeff Immelt – who seems like the frontrunner in Uber’s CEO race – have previously spoken to all board members either on the phone or in person, an indication that both are being seriously considered.
Another person close to the situation says that Whitman’s stance has not changed, and she is not interested in the job.
Benchmark denied that it is now pursuing Whitman’s candidacy for the Uber role, saying in a statement that it had not reintroduced her name for consideration.
The CEO search is taking place as a board battle rages over former CEO Travis Kalanick’s future with the company. There are reports of an internal vote scheduled to take place sometime next week between the board and the executives at Uber. At this event they would be voting on who would be taking the reins at the ride-hailing company.